Monday, December 12, 2011

Androgyny: Advice for my Homie.

Today I have some advice for my dear Blue. It has taken a while because I wanted to give you some thoughtful advice.

Here is the original queston:

I've been struggling with this for most of my 20's and I wonder if you'd have any advice.

How do you reconcile body acceptance with an androgynous gender identity?

I'm genetically predisposed to a weight that will make my body look unquestionably female shaped, and though it's been difficult to keep fighting against the weight gain, it's even more difficult to accept living in a body that won't match up with my basic knowledge of who I am.

The way everyone sees you and the social expectations for all your behavior when you look like what people call a "real woman" are not something I feel like I will be able to live with.

Okay first thing I have to tell you where I am coming from.

For me gender and gender presentation are not strictly rooted in my physical body because there is not a lot I can do about my actual physical body without a lot of surgery.

For me a large part of expressing and feeling my own gender feelings is in my brain because it has to be. There is nothing in the world that would ever make me look like a Boy when I want to be a Boy.

One of the things I would ask you is if in your head androgyny only looks like the tall willowy people who are often lauded for their androgynous beauty?

I'm talking about folks like Andrei Pejic:

My darling, yes that is a beautiful human but one does not have to look like that in order to present a more androgynous gender identity.

The first thing I want you to do is figure out if you want to adhere to what other people say is or isn't womanly, or is or isn't androgynous.

What I mean by that is that I would like for you to get to a point in your head where there is your gender identity as you want it and then learn to essentially disregard the rules for it.

The thing about bodies is that we get what we get. At the end of the day the only person you're hurting when you battle what you have is yourself. Perhaps what you need is not a different body but a different way of perceiving your body. Rather than inhabiting the binary idea that your body can only be a womanly body why not look at your body as Blue's Androgynous body. 

I know that you probably have an idealized version of yourself in your head where the body you wish you had is somehow attainable. I'm going to harsh that for a minute- the truth is that idealized androgynous body is probably not attainable without a shitload of surgery or other things that may not be possible, accessible or healthy for you in the long term.

That isn't bad. It isn't something that needs to destroy your whole world it just is. Just as you might be left handed, you might have a crooked middle finger or be slightly cock eyed as I am. It just is.

The just is thing is what I'd like you to let happen in your head. I think in order to deal with your body not conforming to the ideal you have in your head is not to punish yourself for it. I'm not saying you have to all of a sudden hold hands with it and sing kumbaya, just accept it for what it is.

Your body is probably not going to just become what you want it to be. Granted you can make some choices. I have known people who decided that in order to support their gender identity (in this case like you a more androgynous identity) they have had breast reductions, in some cases taken to a series of diets and whatnot.

I won't say they all got happy endings. For most those things were not satisfying because as I said above, not just for you but for all of us those idealized versions of ourselves never manifest.

How do you deal with that? For me what works (and I will not say it's easy, it's not) is that I stopped questioning, I stopped trying to make myself fit the "ideal" and I have learned to respect my body even when I disagree with it.

I also learned that 90% of the people I know have bodies that don't precisely match up with how they feel inside. As I get older I'm starting to believe that it's part of the human condition.

Basically what I'm saying is that ideal in your head will likely never be a reality and for me a big part of learning to accept my own not ideal actual body was letting go of the ideal. You and I are in that together along with I suspect about 90% of the population.

That is step one and it's a huge one. It's really fucking hard to learn to stop that way of thinking. It's hard to stop putting it all into your physical body. In my life when I have punished myself for my body not being what I thought it should be it never turned out good. Everything suffered from my self esteem to my actual health.

I hate using this phrase but in this case it is true: it is what it is.

In learning to accept your body as it is however it is, is letting go of the idea that it must be X way or it's just no good.  This is the body you are going to inhabit for however long you are perambulating around the planet and it's important to not treat it cruelly.

I'm not saying you have to instantly love your body. I'm saying that through looking at your body and saying okay, this is the body I have. This is the body I have and it's okay. By extension I advocate caring for your body in the best way you can. I'm saying eat foods that don't upset your stomach. If exercise makes your body feel good exercise. If you want to lay on the couch lay on the couch. I'm saying to learn not to look at your body as the enemy but as the means you will get around for the next fifty or however years.

Let's take it to a metaphor. If you have a car you probably wouldn't beat on your car with a golf club because it's not a convertible and then expect it to last you forever. Why would you do the same thing to your body and expect to feel good?


The way everyone sees you.

My sole piece of salient advice is to learn to give no fucks.

Not. One. Fuck my darling.

No one tells us as we're growing up that the truth is what other people think of us is largely none of our business.

I will refer you to this post and tell you in no uncertain terms.

This part is harder than actually forgiving and taking your body for what it is.

This entails unlearning the years of bullshit you have learned.

Blue, baby you do not have to give a fuck what anyone says about "real women" "real men" their social expectations etc. Not. One. Delicious. fuck.

The quick and dirty is this.

99% of the people who will have an opinion about what you should or shouldn't do, or who have some expectation of you based on your appearance have fuck all to do with your actual life.

Think about that.

Does the lady on the sidewalk who gives you the side eye because you're wearing a tie really have any impact on you? Do you know this person? Are they paying your bills? Are you dating them? Do you plan on them seeing you nekkid?

I'm guessing that when it comes to the random ass people, because let's be honest it is always random ass people who have something shitty to say, have fuck all to do with our actual lives.

Dealing with other peoples expectations as we're taught we are supposed is like trying to look at your own butthole from a standing fully clothed position.

Stop on that for a second. Would you ever try to look at your own butthole from a standing fully clothed position? You say no, Shannon what the hell is wrong with you why would I waste my time doing that?

There you go.

"Dealing" with what society expects is at the end of it all a gigantic time waster and to my view a way to help keep the diet/self help/bullshit industries a float.

I do not believe that I need concern myself with what society expects. If I did I would be constantly worried about every Black Woman trope ever. I'm not.

The hard part about this is learning how not to take those messages in. As the world is right now there isn't anything any of us can do about those messages being there, the only thing we have control over is ourselves.

You have to teach yourself to look at one of those moments, or those messages and say fuck it. Or say fuck you. Or say I'm not doing that. Whatever you need to. At the bottom you have to learn to not inhabit those messages, don't give them free rental space in your head.

No one gets to tell you how to feel about your body, how you present yourself etc. No one.

IN case you feel like you need permission this is let.

Drop any guilty or bad feelings about how society sees you like you'd drop a handful of dog shit because that's essentially what it is. A handful of dog shit.

Unfortunately, like shit these expectations are things we all have to live with. What is important is learning to navigate and deal with them in a way that minimizes harm to ourselves.

Personally depending on the situation when someone tells me to act like a lady, my usual reaction is nothing.

My thought process goes something like this.

Let's say person A says something I find stupid: "act like a lady Shannon"

I look at this person and think- Are they paying my bills? Does this person and their opinion bring anything to my personal table? Do I really give a shit what random person has to say or how they feel about me and my Universe?

Almost all of the time my answer is no.

And if those ideas if those supposed edicts about how "real women" are supposed to be, are things I (or you) can look at and call bullshit on, why bother even trying to deal with it?

When people bring that to you, look at them and say (out loud or in your head) no fuck you.

Say it with me blue, "No fuck you."

You don't owe anyone or anything a reason or explanation. The only person you owe anything to is yourself.

So I have homework for you okay?

I want you to sit down and look at your arm. I want you to look at your arm, preferably on your dominant side and understand that is the only arm you are going to get. Think about the nice things you can do for your arm to help it function.

Maybe your forearms get tight and crampy, give them a rub. Think about how nice it is when your crampy forearms are not so crampy. As yourself if it feels better to be angry at your arm for say not being two inches longer, or for being crampy or does it feel better to be nice to your arm?

Seems silly but when it comes to accepting your body as your body is sometimes you have to start small.

Start with one easyish thing. Then start teaching yourself to extend the same thoughts and feelings to the rest of your body. Should I (as in would any of y'all be into) some specific things that y'all can print out and read to yourselves or loved ones?

I fully expect you to report back Blue.

Now I'm going to gather up some fashion resources for you as well.

Do any of y'all my fabulously smart homies have anything to add?

Have I missed any key points?

IN other news darlings I have an idea for a new series about Inhabiting and Accepting your Ugly. I'm working on that.

Tomorrow we're talking about fashion and using it to boost how you present your gender. Also about the challenges of using fashion in this way especially when it comes to fat bodies.

Homo Out.

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